Second-year tight end has a chance to contribute in 2012
With Andrew Quarless (knee) not expected back until at least Halloween, the Packers will need one of their young tight ends to emerge as Jermichael Finley‘s backup. And while D.J. Williams and Tom Crabtree will certainly be in the mix, the feeling here is that Ryan Taylor will ultimately win the job. I was impressed by the former North Carolina star before he ever donned a Green Bay uniform, and he did nothing last summer to dampen my enthusiasm. Taylor has good size (6’3, 255) and deceptive athleticism. And since he’s still learning to play the position after spending the bulk of his college career at linebacker, he’s only scratched the surface of his potential.
Ted Thompson was very economical when it came to signing undrafted free agents last month. According to Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel, the Packers general manager spent $51,500 on 15 rookies – or about $3,400 per player. Under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, Green Bay could’ve spent up to $75,000. Offensive lineman Tommie Draheim received the biggest signing bonus ($8,500) and three other players (Sean Richardson, Jaymes Brooks and Marc Tyler) got $5,000. Conversely, the Saints spent $30,000 on Appalachian State running back Travaris Cadet. Different strokes for different folks, but based on past history, something tells me Thompson will wind up getting more bang for the buck.
One of ESPN’s “experts” opined that Terrell Manning would’ve gone at least two rounds higher had he stayed in school and entered the draft a year from now. That’s probably true. The former North Carolina State star certainly didn’t play like a fifth-round pick last season. He posted 76 unassisted tackles (including an ACC leading 14.5 for loss), 5.5 sacks, 5 pass breakups, 3 interceptions and 4 forced fumbles in 11 starts. So why were over 160 prospects selected ahead of Manning? The biggest reason is a lack of ideal size and speed. He’s a little light (237 pounds) for the inside and a little slow (4.74) for the outside. What he is, however, is a good football player. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him push A.J. Hawk for playing time this summer and then push the veteran right out the door next offseason.
Mike McCarthy has put together an interesting offensive staff. He has a former tight ends coach (Ben McAdoo) working with the quarterbacks, a former quarterbacks coach (Alex Van Pelt) working with the running backs, a former running backs coach (Jerry Fontenot) working with the tight ends and another former running backs coach (Edgar Bennett) working with the wide receivers. And oh yeah, offensive assistant John Rushing worked with defensive backs for seven years at Utah State before joining the Packers. Is it just a matter of time before we see offensive line coach James Campen instructing a young quarterback on how to properly move his feet in the pocket?
Andrew Datko has the potential to be a starting tackle in the National Football League. That’s my opinion after watching a few Florida State games from early last season. The first of Green Bay’s two seventh-round picks impressed the heck out of me – even though he was playing with a badly injured left shoulder that would require surgery less than a month later. If not for the uncertainty over his shoulder, Datko almost certainly would’ve been among the first 100 players drafted. He’s a student of the game who understands angles, leverage and positioning. I think he has a chance to be a better pro than Marshall Newhouse, but only if his shoulder holds up. And that’s a big if.
These truly are Ted Thompson’s Packers. Of the 90 players on the roster, 89 were acquired by the current general manager. Only wide receiver Donald Driver was here prior to 2005 and his future with the organization is tenuous. Here are some more interesting numbers. Of the 90 players, only 15 have ever worn another professional uniform. And of those 15, only 8 played in a game for a team other than Green Bay. Thompson and McCarthy talk all the time about developing young players, and what better way to develop a young player than to get him straight out of college?